It was a great happiness to Israel that they had prophets among them; yet, while they were thus blessed, they were strangely addicted to idolatry, whereas, when the spirit of prophecy had ceased under the second temple, and the canon of the Old Temple was completed (which was constantly read in their synagogues), they were pure from idolatry; for the scriptures are of all other the most sure word of prophecy, and most effectual, and the church could not be so easily imposed upon by a counterfeit Bible as by a counterfeit prophet. Here was a prophet sent to Asa and his army, when they returned victorious from the war with the Ethiopians, not to compliment them and congratulate them on their success, but to quicken them to their duty; this is the proper business of God’s ministers, even with princes and the greatest men. The Spirit of God came upon the prophet (2 Chron. 15:1), both to instruct him what he should say and to enable him to say it with clearness and boldness.
I. He told them plainly upon what terms they stood with God. Let them not think that, having obtained this victory, all was their own for ever; no, he must let them know they were upon their good behaviour. Let them do well, and it will be well with them, otherwise not. 1. The Lord is with you while you are with him. This is both a word of comfort, that those who keep close to God shall always have his presence with them, and also a word of caution: “He is with you, while you are with him, but no longer; you have now a signal token of his favourable presence with you, but the continuance of it depends upon your perseverance in the way of your duty.” 2. “If you seek him, he will be found of you. Sincerely desire his favour, and aim at it, and you shall obtain it. Pray, and you shall prevail. He never said, nor ever will, Seek you me in vain.” See Heb. 11:6. But, 3. “If you forsake him and his ordinances, he is not tied to you, but will certainly forsake you, and then you are undone, your present triumphs will be no security to you; woe to you when God departs.”
II. He set before them the dangerous consequence of forsaking God and his ordinances, and that there was no way of having grievances redressed, but by repenting, and returning unto God. When Israel forsook their duty they were over-run with a deluge of atheism, impiety, irreligion, and all irregularity (2 Chron. 15:3), and were continually embarrassed with vexatious and destroying wars, foreign and domestic, 2 Chron. 15:5, 6. But when their troubles drove them to God they found it not in vain to seek him, 2 Chron. 15:4. But the question is, What time does this refer to? 1. Some think it looks as far back as the days of the Judges. A long season ago Israel was without the true God, for they worshipped false gods; it was a time of ignorance, for, though they had priests, they had no teaching priests, though they had elders, yet no law to any purpose, 2 Chron. 15:3. These were sad times, when they were frequently oppressed by one enemy or other and grievously harassed by Moabites, Midianites, Ammonites, and other nations. They were vexed with all adversity (2 Chron. 15:6), yet when, in their perplexity, they turned to God by repentance, prayer, and reformation, he raised up deliverers for them. Then was that maxim often verified, that God is with us while we are with him. Whatsoever things of this kind were written aforetime were written for our admonition. 2. Others think it describes the state of the ten tribes (who were now properly called Israel) in the days of Asa. “Now, since Jeroboam set up the calves, though he pretended to honour the God that brought them out of Egypt, yet his idolatry has brought them to downright infidelity; they are without the true God,” and no marvel when they were without teaching priests. Jeroboam’s priests were not teachers, and thus they came to be without law. It is next to impossible that any thing of religion should be kept up without a preaching ministry. In those times there was no peace, 2 Chron. 15:5. Their war with Judah gave them frequent alarms; so did the late insurrection of Baasha and other occasions not mentioned. They provoked God with all iniquity, and then he vexed them with all adversity; yet, when they turned to God, he was entreated for them. Let Judah take notice of this; let their neighbours’ harms be their warnings. Give no countenance to graven images for you see what mischiefs they produce. 3. Others think the whole passage may be read in the future tense, and that it looks forward: Hereafter Israel will be without the true God and a teaching priest, and they will be destroyed by one judgment after another till they return to God and seek him. See Hos. 3:4.
III. Upon this he grounded his exhortation to prosecute the work of reformation with vigour (2 Chron. 15:7): Be strong, for your work shall be rewarded. Note, 1. God’s work should be done with diligence and cheerfulness, but will not be done without resolution. 2. This should quicken us to the work of religion, that we shall be sure not to lose by it ultimately. It will not go unrewarded. How should it, when the work is its own reward?